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Army, DoD Seek to Reassure Defense Industry

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U.S. Army
Monday, March 30, 2020

The military is working to minimize the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis on the companies that provide critical equipment, products and services to support the warfighter, senior officials said.

“Thank you for supporting our nation and the Army in this unprecedented time as we navigate through the COVID-19 emergency,” Bruce Jette, assistant Army secretary for acquisition, logistics and technology, wrote in a March 24 letter addressed to the defense industrial base. “I am grateful for your continued dedication to the mission. Undoubtedly, the products and services you provide will be critical in our ability to maintain readiness and meet mission requirements.”

The Army is aware of the many challenges businesses are facing, including local shelter-in-place orders and travel restrictions, so the service is working with the Defense Department and state and local officials to make sure companies have clear guidance, Jette wrote. “I urge you all to maintain clear communications with our program and contracting offices regarding the challenges faced by this new environment,” he wrote. “We stand ready to help.”

Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, made similar remarks during a March 25 news briefing. “I want to assure the American people that the United States military remains steady, remains ready, and capable of meeting all of our national security requirements,” she said.

Lord said her team has made “significant progress” in addressing concerns from defense industry leaders. This includes making sure critical defense contractors can continue working even as more and more states call for businesses to shut down and people to stay home in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

The Pentagon also is working to protect companies from potential adversaries. “It is critically important that we understand that during this crisis, the [defense industrial base] is vulnerable to adversarial capital, so we need to ensure companies can stay in business without losing their technology,” she said.

DoD also has issued a memo that guarantees continued payments to contractors, while the Pentagon is working with the Small Business Administration to protect DoD’s small business partners.

“We know innovation comes in large part from small businesses, and we remain committed to supporting these small businesses,” Lord said.

The “bulk” of the defense industry is working today, Lord said. “We want industry to know that our demand signal is still there,” she said, while encouraging employees to also abide by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for social distancing and other precautions.

She also thanked DoD leaders and contracting officers across the country for their efforts. “They’re helping to ensure a secure, reliable and resilient defense industrial base,” she said.